Belfast Telegraph

Belfast man accused in attack that left his ex in coma may now face killing charge

Michael O’Connor
Michael O’Connor

By Paul Higgins

Lawyers in the case of a Belfast man accused of attacking his ex-partner so savagely that she was left in a vegetative state will argue over a potential murder charge next month.

Michael O'Connor is accused of assaulting Joleen Corr in November 2016. She passed away around 16 months later after medical treatment was withdrawn.

The case against O'Connor (32) had been scheduled for a hearing on the voluntary bill of indictment at Newtownards Crown Court yesterday.

However, it was adjourned following a joint application from prosecution and defence QCs David McDowell and Charles MacCreanor.

Mr McDowell, for the prosecution, told Judge Piers Grant he would lodged a skeleton argument by January 25 with a response from Mr MacCreanor by February 8, before the arguments are heard on February 15.

Since allegedly attacking Ms Corr, O'Connor has been in custody charged with attempted murder and causing the 27-year-old beautician grievous bodily harm with intent.

Ms Corr sustained horrific brain injuries and was left in a coma after being savagely attacked in a house in Thomas Russell Park in Downpatrick.

She was beaten so badly she was barely recognisable, and having spent six months in the RVH and Musgrave Park Hospital, she was transferred home.

Following a court ruling last year, doctors withdrew treatment and she died on April 26, 2018.

It is understood that since then the PPS has been considering the contents of the post-mortem report.

Mr McDowell has previously told the court: "A decision has been taken to prosecute Mr O'Connor for murder."

At a November hearing, he told Judge Grant the PPS will be seeking a "voluntary bill" charging O'Connor with murder "and manslaughter in the alternative", but the defence are opposing the application.

O'Connor is originally from Westrock Grove in Belfast, but his address was now given as c/o Maghaberry Prison.

Described by Mr McDowell as "not a common situation", a voluntary bill is where, instead of having their case and charges processed through the Magistrates Court and then returned to the Crown Court, a defendant's case goes directly before the Crown Court.

For murder and manslaughter to be added to O'Connor's bill of indictment, the PPS must satisfy a judge there is sufficient evidence to ground the new charges against the accused.

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